Skip to main content

Draft environment notification gives big industries 'free hand', withdraw it: NAPM

Counterview Desk 
India’s top civil rights network, National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM) has demanded that the Government of India should immediately withdrawal the draft Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Notification  2020, pointing out that the only aim of the notification is to “further weaken environmental regulations”.
Pointing out that the draft notification has been used in the name of ‘Ease of Doing Business’, which is “a sure doom for environment”, an NAPM statement said, the move is not only “anti-people, anti-nature and against the spirit of the Constitution”, but strangely comes amidst the lockdown regime, when the country is coping with a pandemic.

Text:

Even as the country is reeling under the impacts of the lockdown and coping with a pandemic, the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC) has made a time-bound call for comments on the draft EIA Notification 2020, published on its website on 12th March, 2020. NAPM condemns this ill-timed move aimed at complete dilution of existing provisions that are meant to protect the interests of the environment and project affected people.
The EIA notification, first issued in 1994, under the Environment Protection Act 1986, is a critical mechanism which regulates clearances granted to all kinds of development projects and economic activities in the country.
It is one of the environmental decision-making processes that makes it mandatory for project developers and companies to not just study the socio-economic, ecological and other impacts of a proposed project but also place them in front of the affected communities for their opinions and objections, i.e free, fair and informed consent.
However, this notification has been amended several times in the last two decades in favour of ‘easing the norms’ for business. The latest draft continues to move in the direction of rendering the EIA process anti-people, anti-nature and against the spirit of the Constitution. There are various problematic dilutions and changes in the draft which include:
  • allowing post facto approvals – i.e. starting construction without clearance in certain conditions (which is currently a violation), this reduces clearance as mere formality
  • expanding the list of projects exempted from public consultation, including modernization of irrigation projects, all building, construction and area development projects, inland waterways, expansion or widening of national highways, all projects concerning national defence and security or involving “other strategic considerations” as determined by the central government, all linear projects like pipelines in border areas and all the off-shore projects located beyond the 12 nautical miles. 
  • extending the validity period of clearance granted to mining project from 30 to 50 years 
  • absence of a post clearance compliance and monitoring strategy. Decreasing the monitoring requirement from ‘6-month monitoring’ requirement of the projects cleared to ‘annual monitoring’, leading to further reduction in accountability. 
The proposed changes make our country more vulnerable to unprecedented environmental disasters by decreasing public participation and giving free reign to polluting industries.
Under the guise of increasing the ‘ease of doing business’, the mockery being made of existing environmental regulations threatens the ecology of the nation and makes the people more vulnerable to unforeseen environmental disasters. Past experiences have shown that the economic claims which generally accompany such devastating changes in the environmental policy almost never benefit the affected communities.
The communities directly affected by such crippling changes to the environmental policy are the ones whose lives are closely intertwined with nature: the adivasis and other forest dependent people, pastoralists, farmers, fishworkers, and women. These are the same communities who have historically been a victim of the growth at any cost model of development.
It is equally bizarre that while our planet is poised at the brink of a catastrophic climate crisis, the MoEFCC is pushing such regressive environmental policy. The Covid-19 pandemic, which has also been linked to unrelenting destruction of natural ecosystems and globalisation, has given us a wakeup call to mend our relationship with the earth.
The Government of India must heed this alarm bell and strengthen environmental protection laws and governance in India, in the interest of the ecology, the economy and the millions of people whose lives and livelihoods are deeply linked to natural resources. 
Lockdown restrictions make it impossible to disseminate information about the notification to the directly affected communities
This notification was published just as India reported its first death due to corona virus. The timing of this notification and the fact that the deadline of 60 days has not been removed is telling of the apathy of MoEFCC.
The restrictions imposed by the lockdown make it impossible to disseminate information about the notification to the communities which will be directly affected by the new amendments. Asking the people for objections and suggestions regarding such a crucial notification at this time of a public health, social and economic crisis is a complete travesty of justice and democracy.
We strongly demand:
  1. That the government immediately withdraw this draft notification immediately.
  2. That the government issue a revised notification only after giving due consideration to the environmental concerns that have been raised by various environmental groups and communities. 
  3. That such revised notification, if issued, be issued only after the country has recovered from the lockdown and the pandemic and that an appropriate amount of time be given to the people for objections and suggestions. The procedure in the Pre-Legislative Consultative Policy of 2014 needs to be fully complied with. 
  4. That the government should create a robust environmental regulatory and governance regime that makes project proponents accountable and keeps the affected communities and ecological concerns at the centre of the EIA and environmental decision-making process. 
  5. That the central government consider a rethink of its economic policies in the light of global climate crisis and the vulnerability of natural ecosystems, focusing on non-polluting and local livelihood generating small and medium businesses. 
NAPM strongly believes that the blatant sidelining of the public consultation process proposed by this draft, while virtually giving big industries a free hand over our land and natural resources, unencumbered by the need to get environmental clearances or to consult the affected communities, surely spells doom for protection of the environment in our country. This must be opposed by all.

Comments

TRENDING

Nirma varsity demand for higher fees 'illegal', violates Article 14: Letter to Gujarat HC

Counterview Desk
Students of Gujarat’s top private institute, Nirma University, situated in the outskirts of Ahmedabad, in a letter to the Chief Justice the state High Court, have complained that the authorities are demanding “full fees” from students, without taking into account the “disproportionate impact” the lockdown has on the livelihood of students and families.

Buddhist shrines massively destroyed by Brahmanical rulers in "pre-Islamic" era: Historian DN Jha's survey

By Our Representative
Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book, "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

Vulnerable to Covid-19, sharp rise in murder of Indian journalists during pandemic

By Nava Thakuria*
Vulnerability of working journalists in India is no way an alien issue as the populous country loses a number of working journalists to assailants as also medical emergencies. Even though there was only one casualty in the Indian media fraternity during the first half of 2020, who was targeted for journalistic work, India has begun witnessing an alarming number of media casualties during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Govt 'assures' Gujarat HC no action against MBBS students defying corona sahayak order

By Our Representative
The Gujarat government has assured the High Court that no action would be taken against Part-I and Part-II MBBS students of the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC)-controlled NHL Medical College and LG Hospital and Medical College. The assurance follows the direction by Justice SH Vora to the State government not to prosecute or initiate action against the students who were defying the college authorities’ order to work as corona sahayaks (helpers).

Renounced US citizenship to serve workers, tribals, Sudha Bharadwaj 'odiously' in jail

By Atul, Sandeep Pandey*
Professor Sudha Bharadwaj has been in jail since August 2018. She was taken into police custody on August 26, 2018 on suspicion of being involved in Maoist terror activities after Republic TV claimed that she had allegedly written a letter to Maoists and was conspiring to create public disorder and unrest in India.

Cruel legacy of Green Revolution? Covid-19 underscores 'risky, fragile' food system

By Moin Qazi*  The Covid-19 crisis has highlighted the risks of an unhealthy diet and the extreme fragility of food systems. The economic reconstruction that will follow the pandemic is the perfect opportunity to provide better nutrition and health to all. The pandemic should spur us to redefine how we feed ourselves, and agricultural research can play a vital role in making our food systems more sustainable and resilient.

Plant organic, eat fresh: Emlen Bage's journey from migrant labour to agri-entrepreneur

By Chandrashekar and Kriti*
Who is a farmer? Type this question in the google search and check out the images? You can see men thronging the screen. This is the popular perception around the globe. Well one can understand how difficult it would be for a woman to defy this perception.

Dichotomy? US Hindutva groups oppose racism, mum on Modi's 'anti-minority' stance

By Our Representative
The Hindus for Human Rights (HHR), a US-based advocacy group, has noticed a major dichotomy between the stance taken by RSS’ US arm, Hindu Swayamsewak Sangh (HSS), expressing “shock” at the “painful killing of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and so many others”, all of which suggest “the tragic tale of racial injustice” in US, and HSS’ “hatred” for India’s religious minorities and Dalits.

High youth unemployment: India 'fails' to take advantage of demographic dividend

By Varun Kumar
As coronavirus pandemic continues amplifying challenges among youth with regard to employment opportunities, government policies have further resulted in economic slowdown, leading to mass unemployment and loss jobs. According to the International Labour Organisation report “Covid-19 and the World of Work” (May 27, 2020), around 94 percent of the world’s workers are living in countries with some sort of workplace closure measures in place.